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Work completed on RMA’S new landscape around London church

Work completed on RMA’S new landscape around London church

Work has been completed on the new garden designed by RMA around St Mary’s Church, Islington in north London.

Our landscape masterplan has created a welcoming public space right off busy Upper Street, upgrading the setting for the Grade II Listed church as well as for the neighbouring community centre and the Little Angel Theatre. The new design maximises the use of the whole garden: there are places for quiet reflection as well as more active uses, including elements to encourage children’s imaginative play, and areas that can be used for pop-up and temporary events such as theatre performances and festivals.

All the existing mature trees – mostly London planes – have been retained, with the aesthetic and environmental benefits they bring.  In order to prevent damage to the trees, the path and paving construction utilised ‘no-dig’ methods, so the surfacing lies above the existing ground and is permeable wherever possible. New planting comprises robust shrubs and groundcovers with some ferns and grasses, all suited to the dry and shady conditions of the site. A high proportion is evergreen and chosen for year-round flower and colour. Bulbs have been planted for winter and spring interest, and honeysuckles established on the wall of the Neighbourhood Centre to provide vertical greening and habitat for wildlife.

A new interpretation programme brings the history of the site alive by referencing the people associated with St Mary’s and the surrounding area, including children’s book illustrator Kate Greenaway, Samuel Ajayi Crowther who was the first African Anglican bishop in Nigeria, and local builders the Dove Brothers. Artist Harry Gray was commissioned to produce bronze roundels and inscribed lettering, set into the main path, providing an educational resource for the public as well as creating a unique sense of place for the gardens.

Robert Myers said, “I’ve loved working on this project. It has been an exciting opportunity to link sacred and secular spaces, and create a new area of public realm for one of London’s busiest – and most interesting – local districts.”

Regular public engagement and consultation has been an integral part of the design process. The project is one part of the wider £1.9m Heart of Islington initiative spearheaded by St Mary’s Church, and has been guided by a steering group including representatives from the Borough, St Mary’s Church and the Neighbourhood Centre.

Anthea Nicholson, co-ordinator of the Heart of Islington project, said: “It’s wonderful to see how this site, with its unique history, has been opened up and transformed into such a welcoming space.”


Photos: Francis Ware